I would like to wish all Australians in Cambodia a very happy Australia Day.
Since the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the first fleet in Sydney Cove on 26th January in 1788, Australia has developed into a vibrant, multicultural and tolerant society.
Once Australians would have looked to Europe, from where those ships came, for its political and economic security. However, we now recognise that with our geographic location in the Asia Pacific, our present and future are intertwined with this region. I’m pleased to say that in Cambodia, Australia has an important regional partner.
While our two countries established diplomatic relations over 60 years ago, the basis for the modern-day relationship with Cambodia took root during the negotiations for the Paris Peace Accords in which Australia played a key role and which led the way to democratic elections in Cambodia. March 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the arrival of multinational peacekeepers under the auspices of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia. The military component was led by an Australian, Lt. Gen. John Sanderson.
Twenty years on, this Australia Day I’m proud to say that in 2011 we continued to stand by Cambodia in times of crisis. On 18 October 2011 the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, announced that Australia would provide A$2 million in emergency flood assistance to Cambodia.
Australia continues to work with Cambodian and other international partners to support Cambodia’s development. In 2011-12 Australia increased its development assistance to A$77.4 million, primarily in the areas of health, agriculture, infrastructure and legal and judicial reform.
Australia cooperates with Cambodia on a range of regional security issues such as maritime security and counter terrorism. Our law enforcement agencies work together to combat transnational crime such as illicit drug trafficking and child abuse.
Close people-to-people links add strength and warmth to the bilateral relationship. Australians can be found living and travelling throughout Cambodia as volunteers, NGO workers, businesspeople or as tourists. Many Cambodians are now choosing to study in Australia. Fifty Cambodians were selected in 2011 for fully funded postgraduate study under the Australia Awards scholarships, while others received Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships to undertake short courses in Australia.
Australia, as the longest-standing ASEAN dialogue partner, works cooperatively with Cambodia in a number of regional forums designed to promote regional stability and improve economic and social ties.
In 2012, with Cambodia assuming the rotating Chair of ASEAN, I look forward to this cooperation increasing to a new level. Australia looks forward to working with Cambodia to ensure successful outcomes from the ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings.
Just as 2011 was, 2012 promises to be a big year in the bilateral relationship. I am sure that the friendly relations between our two countries will continue to grow and prosper.